Things to see on Corso Italia, Cortina
A travel guide about Corso Italia, Cortina d'Ampezzo: from the buidings, to the monuments and the boutiques.
Quick index (Click to expand)Introduction The bell tower Basilica of Saints Filippo and Giacomo The old town hall Angelo Dibona square "Ra Ciasa de ra Regoles" Corazza's house The "Cooperativa" of Cortina Cortina's town hall Gellner's ex post office building "Ra Ciasa de i pùpe" The Ice Stadium Shops, bars and clubs Conclusion
"Corso Italia" in Cortina is absolutely the most prestigious and well-known street of the Dolomites. It is a pedestrian area with a lenght of 600 meters, in the center of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Along "Corso Italia" you can find the most trendy boutiques, stores, bars, restaurants and public utility buildings. "Corso Italia" is the center of Cortina's life, a place to meet, both for residents and guests of Cortina.
...the most prestigious and well-known street of the Dolomites...
The stores, over the years, are constantly changing. New brands and owners comes, in a continuous evolution that follows the trends of the moment.
In this tourist guide, however, we want to focus on the "immutable things" of "Corso Italia": the buildings and monuments that will remain unchanged for decades in the future.
In the next chapters we'll provide you some photographs and a brief description of the points of interest, and we'll try, when possible, to tell you also some curiosities about the buildings that stand on "Corso Italia" in Cortina, a street that everyone should walk at least once in their life.
You have to know that, in Italy, every village has its own dialect. In Cortina is used a variation of the "Ladino". Almost everyone in Italy speaks italian, but if we speak in
strict dialect (as some old people do) we can't understand each other. There are hundreds of dialects, and the far you are from your home country, the harder would be to understand
the local dialect, that becomes more and more different until it becomes completely incomprehensible in relatively few chilometers. We, as new generations, have not this problem anymore,
because virtually everyone speaks correct italian, with a variation only in the accent.
Dialect is really considered in Italy, and we want to respect the traditions. Sometimes we'll use the original dialect words: this is the reason because some words will be in italic.
The bell tower:
Let's start our walk from the Campanile of Cortina d'Ampezzo, an undisputed symbol of the town and a landmark visible from almost all the valley.
Located right in the middle of "Corso Italia", the Cortina bell tower stands out in all its majestic splendor with an height of 66 meters (215ft). Built in Gothic style, it has been erected between 1852 and 1858 by the architect Silvestro Franceschi, to replace the previous tower, dating back to 1590. The bells of the Cortina bell tower were custom-made by a company of Innsbruck, named Grassmayr, and are famous for their sound.
It is well known that, in 1917, the Emperor of Austria was so impressed by their sound that he forbade their fusion to make cannons, even if Europe was in the middle of the world war. In memory of this event, you can find a commemorative plaque on the entrance door of the bell tower. The campanile is now closed to the public. If you have the occasion to hear them ringing, stop for a moment to hear their splendid chime.
Two small curiosities about Cortina's bell tower:
- There has been debate for years about its actual height. According to the official Cortina parish website, it is officially 65.8 meters (215,88 ft). In the bar stories, however, some people tended to raise it by a few meters, so much so that even some official sources erroneously report a height of 73 meters.
- The bells, previously mentioned, play in SIb major, with this rhythm: the small one in F with a weight of 120 kg (264,555lbs), the second one in D with a weight of 192 kg (423 lbs), the third one in Eb with a weight of 361 kg (796 lbs), the fourth one in F with a weight of 860 kg (1896 lbs), the fifth one in D with a weight 1.455 kg (3208 lbs) and finally the big one in Eb with a weight of 3.074 kg (6777 lbs).
Let's now leave the campanile behind us and move towards to the Basilica, entering through the main entrance.
Basilica of Saints Filippo and Giacomo:
Church of Cortina
is the center of the religious life of the town. In 2011 the church has been promoted to minor Basilica.
Built in 1769 on the foundations of two previous churches (of the XIII and XVI centuries), it contains some of the most significant artworks of the Christianity of Cortina.
The church is dedicated to the patron saints Philip and James (Filippo e Giacomo in italian). The reliques of the two saints are visible on the niches on both sides of its eighteenth-century style single nave.
Inside the Basilica it is possible to observe the paintings of Giuseppe Ghedina, a local and prolific artist of 1800: He is also the author of the frescoes of the "Ciasa dei pupe", of which we will speak later. The high altar, in marbled wood, was made by Johanes Mussack and painted by Antonio Zanchi, while the decorations of the vault of the nave were made by Franz Anton Zeiler.
Before e through the main door, look up to admire the organ from 1954, an instrument with 3078 pipes built by the Mauracher company from Linz. A curiosity: if you look at the fresco at the right of the altar, you can see a representation of Cortina, drawn below the patron saint.
"El Comun Vecio", the old town hall:
In front of the church you can see a large yellow building: "El Comun Vecio" of Cortina
that means The old town hall of Cortina. Nowadays the building is assigned to
other purposes, but once in its rooms were held the meetings of the municipality, school classes and even trials. There was also a prison and a grain and salt warehouse. Nowadays in the old town hall you can find the tourist information office
(which you could find really useful), the civic library, "Ra Banda de Cortina" (the marching band of Cortina) as well as some offices and stores. The square in front of the town hall is called Piazza Roma, and it is the
main bus stop for all city buses (if you need to move outside Cortina you have to go to the bus station, if you need to move inside Cortina, this is the right place).
In 1850 the building ran the risk of being demolished to create a square, in order to give greater presence to the church, but fortunately it has resisted until today.
On its facades are decorated several heraldic coats of arms, that have been drawn in the late '20s of the 1900. Every one rapresents an original family of the "Ampezzo", and the names are strictly
written in dialect.
A curiosity: the family name is not the surname, but the name of the lineage. You can have the same surname, but a different family name. I'm not sure if this is common in the whole Italy or only in the sorroundings, but in Cortina is considered normal to name someone with his name and the family name, completely ignoring the anagraphic surname, that is implied in the family name. Let's make an example: Anagraphic name "John Shepard" of the family of "the Cows" would be called "John Cow" because, if he is a "Cow" it's obviously named "Shepard".
If you come in Cortina during the month of December, you'll be able to see a picturesque advent calendar, made by lighting up, day after day, the twenty-five windows of the facade that looks towards Corso Italia. The "advent calendar" is a christian tradition: it is (simplifying) a "countdown to christmas" that starts the first day of December. Let's now leave the old town behind and head towards Piazza Angelo Dibona.
Angelo Dibona square:
Angelo Dibona square is the central square of Cortina, where most of the public events and few concerts take place. Thanks to a removable structure, friendly called "the seashell" the events can have a protection from the sun or the rain, giving also a beautiful scenography.
The square were known as Venezia square, but recently it has been named after the famous mountaineer Angelo Dibona, of whom you can see a bronze bust, made by the artist Murer in 1976. Angelo Dibona square offers a beautiful view of Corso Italia, the bell tower and the mountain Tofana, and is one of the most photographed places of "Corso Italia", with the immancable selfie under the Bell Tower. If you are lucky enough to be in Cortina during the countryside festival (the first Sunday of July) or during the Musical bands festival (the last week of August) you'll see the square crowded with people celebrating. During the year there are also other events that are organized in this central meeting point of Cortina.
In addition to the statue of Angelo Dibona, since December 2015, the square has been decorated with the monument to the mountain policeman. It is a bronze bust dedicated to the police forces that ensure safety and legality in the touristic villages among
the mountains of the whole Italy. The sculpture, created by artist Beppino Lorenzot, was placed on a rock that has been taken from the Acquabona landslide, which caused the death of three people in 2015.
Immediately behind the statue there is Cortina Banca, one of the oldest cooperative credit banks in Italy, which houses the fresco of the "Sibyls", a paint dating back to the first half of the 1400s, recovered in 1893 during a restoration of the building. It is an interesting fresco because, despite the fact that Cortina at the time was under the the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Giotto's style identifies the Italian artistic identity of Cortina.
Do you want to know a curious story about Piazza Dibona? It seems that in June 2012 two tourists from Milan saw the ghost of a German airplane pilot, that were crossing the square before disappear. The fact ended up in some newspapers and created a bit of a uproar. Obviously there have been no more sightings. To give a little "credibility" to the story, here you can read an italian article, appeared on a respectable newspaper, but there is the suspicion it was just a funny marketing operation.
Now turn your back and head towards the "Ciasa de ra Regoles", the building with the coats of arms of the "Regole d'Ampezzo" painted on the facade.
"Ra Ciasa de ra Regoles":
Written strictly in dialect, it can be translated as The house of the Regole. The "Regole" are a very old Ampezzo institution for the protection and regulation of the territory. Their main purposes are to protect the green areas, regulate the construction of new buildings, manage the nature park and maintain the forest, but they also deal with various other matters.
The "Ciasa de ra Regoles" is one of the most important civil buildings in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Originally designated as municipal school, since 1957 it has become the headquarters of the "Regole d'Ampezzo", which have been managing the territory of Cortina for centuries. The building is made in the classic austrian style of 1800, further emphasized by the 2019 restoration.
The building is characterized by a hipped roof with a shaped cornice. A peculiarity that might go unnoticed is the absence of balconies, a typical trait of Austrian buildings of that period. The windows are decorated and the facades of the building are colored in a tint very similar to that of the "Comun vecio", the old town hall which we mentioned earlier.
On the ground floor of the "Ciasa de ra Regoles" it is possible to visit the Museum of Modern Art Mario Rimoldi, one of the most important private collections of modern art in Italy. There are displayed
works by artists such as De Chirico, Morandi, Martini and Rotella, donated to the "Regole" in 1974 by the widow of Mario Rimoldi, a well-known art collector and patron of Cortina.
In the past, the palace also housed the Regole d'Ampezzo Ethnographic Museum and the Rinaldo Zardini Paleontological Museum, which have now been transferred to the Alexander Girardi Hall, that is easily reachable thanks to its short distance from the center. Once you go out of "Ciasa de ra Regoles", turn right to see Corazza's house, recognizable by the clock on the facade.
Near the small parking lot behind Ciasa de ra Regoles, it is possible to see Corazza's house, an ancient Ampezzo buiding, with a clock and the words: "CORAZZA" and "AMPEZZO" on the facade. The building is owned by a private and can be visited only from the outside.
It is an old house originally inhabited by a family of watchmakers and is one of the oldest buildings in Cortina. The family that used to live in this house was called "Corazza", that means "armor" in italian: The name comes from the fact that the family was specialized in the construction of armors and in the art of wrought iron, and later in the more complex art of clock making. This is the reason for the clock on the facade.
If you pay attention to the architecture of the house, you can observe the characteristics of the traditional mountain house: thick walls made of stone, with asymmetrical and very small windows, to shelter from the cold. Now go back to the Corso Italia, head to the right and preoceed to the "Cooperativa of Cortina", the next destination of our article on what to see on "Corso Italia" in Cortina d'Ampezzo.
The "Cooperativa" of Cortina:
Coming to Cortina and not visiting the Cooperativa is like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum. The Cooperative of Cortina was founded in 1893 as a warehouse where to buy basic necessities, but thanks to the commitment of its 25 founding members, it soon becomes a point of reference and a meeting place for the whole town. Today the Cooperative has an exhibition area of 4000 square meters, as well as six other stores along "Corso Italia".
The building is developed on three floors, where you can find a wide range of products, from food to hardware, from shoes to clothing. In addition to being a well-known meeting place (if you like to go hunting for VIPs, in August and Christmas it's hard not to find some) it is a very well-stocked store, with many of the most prestigious brands of many different sectors. Without any doubt, when the sun goes down or the day is cloudy, the "Cooperativa" is the perfect refuge to spend a few hours of leisure, at any time of the year. Once you are done with your shopping, as you leave the Cooperative, you can see a large bulding in front of you, iit is the town hall of Cortina, the next stop of our journey to discover "Corso Italia", in Cortina.
Cortina's town hall:
The town hall of Cortina was built in 1836 and is the administrative headquarters of the town. Once you've enter through the main door, in addition to the municipal offices, you can see two Radetzky cannons on display. These two pieces of artillery has been donated to the community of Ampezzo by Field Marshal Josef Radetzky in 1851. They are original cannons, obviously demilitarized, which originally belonged to the Venetian fortress of Palmanova.
If the name Radetzky reminds you of something, it is probably due to the famous Radetzky march, composed by Johann Baptist Strauss in honor of the Austrian reconquest of Milan after the revolutionary movements of 1848. The march is very well known and is often played by the Cortina d'Ampezzo Musical Band. It is also performed every year in the big concert at the end of the parade of the Cortina's musical bands festival, that takes place the last Sunday of any August. Now let's retrace our steps and head towards "Largo delle Poste" where we'll be able to see the Gellner Post Office building.
Gellner's ex post office building:
Eduard Gellner was an architect mainly known for his design of the Eni Residential Village in Borca di Cadore. He achieved international fame thanks to some architectural works realized for the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, among them the Telve Palace, also known as The (ex) post office.
Gellner's style can be defined as "modern alpine architecture", but some of his works have become target of criticism because, in order to abolish the folklore and rusticism, the architect risked overdoing it, as he himself admitted in a 1973 conference in Vienna entitled "Architecture and Environment". Undoubtedly, the Post Office Building is one of these works, where the desire for polemic against the rustic was expressed in a modern style that was outside the canons of the time. To better contextualize we must remember that it was the fifties, and in the middle of the post-war period the desire to create something new was strong, also thanks to innovative materials such as reinforced concrete.
Even considering these facts, we can still say that the building doesn't go unnoticed. The alternation between reinforced concrete and wood, with some panels painted in blue and others in brick red, make it strongly recognizable. Whether you like it or not is absolutely subjective, but it is undeniable that Telve building represents a strong piece of Italian architectural history and it is worth stopping to look at it. Once you've decided whether you like it or not, continue along "Corso Italia" to the "Ciasa de i Pùpe".
"Ra Ciasa de i pùpe":
Written strictly in dialect, it means "the house of the children". Ra Ciasa de i pùpe is a building almost completely frescoed by the brothers Luigi, Angelo and Giuseppe Ghedina (whom we have mentioned before for the frescoes in the Basilica). The building was originally a depandance of the "Aquila Nera" hotel, as can be seen by the inscription under the small balcony overlooking Corso Italia. The three brothers were the sons of the owner of the hotel, and they painted the east facade with scenes representing arts and science, while the south facade was decorated with glimpses of Ampezzo life, represented eith the four ages of man (childhood, adolescence, maturity and old age). It is said that the white panel was deliberately left blank, available for anyone who wanted to challenge the talent of the Ghedina brothers in painting.
Actually the building cannot be visited inside, as the spaces originally intended for the hotel have been converted into apartments and stores. Of the three photographs proposed below, the most beautiful in my opinion is the vintage postcard, where you can clearly see the frescoes as they originally appeared. Thanks to the Facebook page "C'era una volta Cortina (once upon a time in Cortina)" for allowing us to publish it.
The "Ciasa de i pùpe" would be the last building I want to talk about in this article about "Corso Italia", but before moving on to the end, I suggest you continue beyond "Corso Italia", until you reach Via del Castello and the Cortina Ice Stadium.
The Ice Stadium:
The Olympic Ice Stadium of Cortina was built for the VII Olympic Winter Games of 1956, that have been hosted in Cortina d'Ampezzo. It has been the first Olympic Winter Games in the world to be broadcast on television. The ice competitions and the opening and closing celebrations of the Olympic games were held here. The structure was built by the company "Viviani Donato and sons", from Cornuda (TV).
At the beginning of the driveway in front of the stadium there is a large stone dedicated to Déodat de Dolomieu, a French scholar who published, in 1791, an article on a limestone rock discovered in the Alps and which has been named Dolomite in his honor. The Dolomites are so unique in their kind that they are considered a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, both for their beauty and for their geological characteristics.
Before proceeding, a couple of curiosities:
- The stadium appeared in the film 007 - For Your Eyes Only in 1981, in the scene where James Bond meets Kristatos and his protégé, the skater Bibi.
- The engine room of the stadium is still the original one from 1952 and maintain the ice using 50 kilometers of coils, placed a few centimeters below the rink.
Originally, the stadium was open and could accommodate up to 12,000 people, but the costs of management for snow removal and new rules for major events on ice have forced the institution to cover the skating rink. After some controversy the company "Cimolai Armando" was commissioned to build a steel and glass roof in 2004, to ensure the usability of the facility even in summer or in bad weather conditions. At the moment the stadium has a capacity of 7000 spectators and hosts the activities of various ice sports societies, as well as an outdoor playground accessible in the summer. Outside the stadium you can see the Olympic brazier, placed on a wooden platform decorated with the five Olympic circles.
Alexander Girardi Hall
the Multipurpose Center Alexander Girardi Hall is a complex created combining tradition and public services. It was born in 2006 as a multipurpose hall and congress space with 634 seats. On its inside it can be organized concerts, parties and conferences. In addition to the large conference hall there are three smaller rooms, the Center for Naturalistic and Historical Studies and the reconstructions of the Great War on the Ampezzo Dolomites.
As mentioned earlier, the Alexander Girardi Hall hosts the relocated
Ampezzo's "Regole" Museum and
The Paleontological Museum Rinaldo Zardini.
Both these structures have a great historical value for the city of Cortina d'Ampezzo, as they represent a cross-section of Ampezzo's traditions and a tribute to
Rinaldo Zardini, a famous paleontologist from Cortina known for having
discovered thousands of fossils in the Cassian strata around Cortina. The fossil collection is one of the most complete in Europe and includes some specimens of amber that are millions of years old.
The program of events organized in the congress hall and in the museums of the Ampezzo's "Regole" is constantly evolving, so we suggest you to go and visit it if you are interested in this kind of events.
The main hall was named after Alexander Girardi, an Austrian tenor born in 1850 and emigrated to Graz from Cortina d'Ampezzo. He sang several parts that made him famous in the theaters of Vienna and Paris. He is buried in Vienna's central cemetery.
Shops and Pubs:
Our article on what to see in Corso Italia in Cortina would end here, but the town center is not only made up of historic buildings. Cortina is also famous for its fashion boutiques and for its pubs, restaurants and clubs, where you can have a drink after spending the day outdoors or eat something. The purpose of this article is not to advertise anyone, neither to forgot someone else, so please consider this a list, that I've made without thinking too much, of the places that I consider particularly interesting for those who visit Cortina. It must also be said that this is a small town: if you'll walk along Corso Italia, you'll see with your own eyes which shop or locations will catch your attention.
Many big brands have a window in Cortina, so you'll surely find some shops along the Corso where you can stop. At the moment the most popular boutiques are those of Chiara Ferragni, very close to the "Ciasa de i Pùpe" and the Dior boutique, a pop-up store in collaboration with the historic Franz Kraler store. In addition to clothing shops, Cortina is also famous for its art galleries. Walking through the center, it is not difficult to come across a work by De Chirico or Fontana exhibited in the window of some gallery.
If you are looking for a place to have a drink or have fun, there are many alternatives: enoteca Baita Fraina, the Bar Sport and the Janbo are the most crowded places, but the aperitif at the Suite (under the bell tower) is probably the trendiest one.
...the best way to discover Cortina is to wander...
Although the center is where most of the shops are located, the best way to discover Cortina is to wander. Don't be afraid to enter some uncrowded street, having as a reference the bell tower it is practically impossible to get lost. Furthermore, Cortina is a very quiet town, where it is extremely difficult to have problems, even in the less crowded streets.
Some examples of what you can find by moving a few steps away from Corso Italia, go back to the square of "Palazzo delle Poste". Continuing a few meters towards the bell tower you'll find another of the most popular aperitif places in Cortina: Villa Sandi. In a few minutes it is also possible to reach the Cortina station, in the vicinity of which you can find the excellent ice cream shop Da Po' and the passeggiata dell'ex ferrovia, a road where it is possible to walk south and north for kilometers, with a regular and gentle steep, perfect for not getting too tired. Close to the station, every Tuesday and every Friday morning, the traditional market is held, with stalls selling various types of products, from food to shoes (if you want a roast chicken, I suggest you to book).
Hoping you liked the page on what to see in Corso Italia in Cortina, before saying goodbye, we would suggest you to read all the articles we wrote about Cortina d'Ampezzo by clicking here.
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